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Stranger, The

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Stranger, The

Publication date ca. 1957
Digitizing sponsor Sonoma County (California) Sheriff's Department and The Highland House Restaurant of Santa Rosa
Homemade cautionary drama about the case of a young girl who is abducted and murdered by a stranger. Director and Photographer: Joseph S. Cozzolino. With Tolie Cozzolino (Mother); Rennie Knight (Girl); Danny Knight (Stranger); Steve Knight (Boy); Ron McHenry and R. Anderson (Deputies). Filmed in and around Santa Rosa, California. Kodachrome.


was serial no. 38842



Reviewer: pheret - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 6, 2014
Subject: after reading the history
i first want to say that i was going to originally say that i totally got the message and, considering the subject and the times, i applaud the creators!

however i still have to say that the mom (who i totally KNEW was a grandma) does not have what it takes to be an actor (altho the kids do). and the shorter sheriff looks just dorky; the stereotypical 'donut shop' cop, lol!

anyhoo, having someone who was actually a part of making something in this archive is a treat to those of us who frequent this site!

thanks, rennie!
Reviewer: sonoma john - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 15, 2012
Subject: Joe's movie
Wow, I never knew Joe made a movie. My family lived in Sonoma and we were very close friends of Joe & Tollie when he served as chief of police. The poor reviews are disappointing as he was obviously not trying to win an academy award, just warning the community of the sicko's that live amongst us. Thanks for your many years of service to Sonoma County Joe and RIP.
John Sims
Reviewer: uniQ - favoritefavorite - April 17, 2011
Subject: The Film and the Filmmaker
Rennie's review (below) brings up a worthy point we generally overlook (I certainly know I'm guilty of it): these films are selective views of their creators, and completely obscure their other, usually better, attributes. Undersherrif Cozzolino's life and achievements are certainly poorly served by the impression given here. I have a suspicion Clem Williams suffers similarly.

While I would like to give a rating based on that, I cannot overlook the film itself and its many problems. However, I will remove some of the less charitable remarks I had previously made.

The credits, which begin the film, are noteworthy for a few reasons. First, they are handwritten in a scrapbook! The handwriting is flawless, but changes style about every other line. I wonder about the restaurant sponsoring the film: are they still around? Do they remember this film? Finally we are told this is "A Community Production" — what is that supposed to mean?

I'm sorry to say it, but the lighting shows the Undersheriff of Sonoma County to terrible advantage. He looks downright frightening!

The biggest objection I have is that he refers to child molesters as "strangers". As has been pointed out and unfortunately shown many times, the two are not equal. Not all strangers are molesters (they should still be treated warily), and not all molesters are strangers. Sid Davis made a similar mistake when he labeled all (male) homosexuals as molesters in "Boys Beware".

His advice seems reasonable but I have to ask: what is an "Isolated restrooms"?

Unfortunately the film suffers from technical/production problems: Frequently the sound is too quiet to hear and frequently random things (chairs, dishes) make WAY too much noise. In one scene the wind catches the microphone and sounds like a hurricane.

The kidnapper has car that manages to look evil (tailights) and silly (It's pink!) at the same time! He also appears to have a temporary license plate in his back window.

I'd like to know why is the Deputy is wearing a helmet (??) in a patrol car.

"Mrs. Cummings" reaction to the deputy's news is unfortunately hilarious! I hate to say it but she doesn't project grief at all.

Sid Davis was well known for making films like this on a shoestring budget, but seeing the same done poorly really gives appreciation for his skill.
Reviewer: LongLiveRock - favoritefavoritefavorite - January 8, 2011
Subject: A product of it's period
I dig Grandma's poodle apron and the pink caddilac. Strangers are bad, but you have to remember that sometimes somebody the child knows or totally trusts like their parents, stepparents, reletives, neighbors, teachers, a Scout leader, a clergy member, can hurt a child as well.
Reviewer: Rennie57 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 24, 2009
Subject: Just some information
I was on the internet today trying to find out some information about my Grandfather, Joesph Cozzolino, who passed away in March of 2006, and came across a site that had the film "The Stranger" on it. I could not believe it! I called my family over to see it. (I have a VHS tape of the film my Grandfather made for me from the original tape). That site led me to this forum.
Here's some background on this film.
Hello, I am Rennie who played the little girl in this film.
This film was actually made in 1965. The little boy is my brother, Steve and the mother is yes, actually my Grandmother.
My Grandfather wanted my Mother to play the part of my mother, but she did not want to, so my Grandma got stuck playing the part.
My Grandfather was the Under Sheriff of Sonoma County at the time and his passion was photography. He bought his first movie camera and played around with it for awhile making all kinds of home movies. Yikes! :)
Being in law enforcement, Joe knew that there were not very many, if any, information tools at that time for parents and teachers to show children about the dangers of talking to strangers and the potential consequinces.
My Grandfather decided to make a film to show to school children. He used this hobby to make something he could contribute to his community. He wrote the script, had his family as actors, the deputies were really on the force, borrowed the police cars, shot the film at his home and in Howarth Park in Santa Rosa. Joe's friend,Don, was the owner of The Highland House Resturaunt where my Grandmother and brother once worked. Don wanted to help with the cost of film, hence the "Sponser" of the film.
The film was originally about 45 minutes long and was edited down to 14 minutes because it was too long to show in a school setting.
We spent many long hours over many months to complete his projet. We had lots of fun, lots of laughs, and lots of tears, (especially me...when they had me lay down under the tree in the park, no one noticed, but they laid me down on hill of red ants. I came up durning the first shooting screaming in pain from ant bites!)
Well, that stopped production for the day. We had to wait a few days for the bites to heal and the ground to dry out, as it had rained for some time after the first shooting.
Having read the comments, Wow!, you guys are brutial!!! I suppose if you are taking a film making class, the comments are valid.
I just wish you could have known my Grandfather, his kind soul, his love of movies, music, photography, and life itself. He poured his heart and soul into this film for the good of others.
Nice to meet all of you...Go easy on him guys. :)
Grandpa, I hope you are making movies in heaven and playing the sweetest music. I love you,
Reviewer: ERD - favorite - October 21, 2006
Subject: A for Amateur
This film is poorly written, directed, and acted.
Obviously an amateur production.
Reviewer: GE_Pretzel - favorite - October 19, 2006
Subject: I, I really, I just know something's wrong... THIS FILM, THAT'S WHAT!
While one can commend the people involved in creating this film for at least making an effort to educate viewers about the serious problem of child predators, every single element of the production is executed in such a lacklustre manner one can't help but hold it in derision. The mediocrity begins with the director's camera focused on a quaint scrapbook that features the film title, names of cast members, and other acknowledgements while a serene piece of music plays that is disturbingly inappropriate for a film addressing such serious subject matter. After police sheriff and director Joe Cozzolino quickly dispenses some simple precautions on how to avoid predators, the main segment of the film begins...

... and it's bad. Viewers are subjected to a horrendous dramatization of a mother who dreams that her daughter is strangled to death by a stranger. There's nothing wrong with the premise, but the acting and dialogue is so incompetent that it borders on the comical. The actress who plays the mother reacts lackadaisically when she learns of her daughter's disappearance, and one of the police officers will elicit giggles from viewers as the strap on his helmet dangles about when he informs the mother about the status of the missing child. Without a doubt, The Stranger is the yardstick by which all other low-budget ephemeral films are judged. I invite you to view the film and witness its shoddiness firsthand.
Reviewer: mjwise - favorite - October 7, 2006
Subject: Hey, I LOVE Albert Camus...oh...wait....
This contains, without a doubt, the worst acting I have actually seen on a Prelinger archive film on the part of "Mother" in this film. I have seen housepets do better jobs of emoting. It's so glib and so poor it ruins any hope of this film had of actually being decent. This film also is devoid of almost any music other than the completely and totally inappropriate opening score. Finally, it lacks ANY sort of helpful message or ANY lessons and perhaps inflicts fear but nothing else. And WHY do the cops ride around in their car with helmets on? Are they going to the demolition derby after the shoot?
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 26, 2005
Subject: Edith Massey in The Stranger!
Edith Massey, The egg lady in Pink Flamingos and other weird John Waters films, underacts to the hilt in this trashfest. A movie that left me gaga. Trust me folks, people talk about Manos. You HAVE to see this film to fully appreciate itÃÂÃÂs awfulness. Anyways, the film opens up with a scrap-book(!!?) that tells us the title of the movie, the sponsor, (God bless you you fine Restaurant!) tells us this was made by the 'Sherriff's Employees Asso' (make your own joke there) and THEN finally tells us this is a ÃÂÃÂCommunity ProductionÃÂÃÂ. Whew! And yes, thatÃÂÃÂs just the credits!
A police officer then greets us strangely, in someoneÃÂÃÂs kitchen it looks like, fumbly reading from cue cards. What the hey?
THEN the film goes into high gear. Edith Massey andd daughter are reading a story together until itÃÂÃÂs time for the kid to go to bed, the Edith tucks the kid in, even though the sceneÃÂÃÂs lighting looks as if itÃÂÃÂs in the middle of the day. After saying good night to the kid, Edith reads a strangely laid out newspaper that tells of a girlÃÂÃÂs strangling, and a flood. The newspaper banner is strangely on the right hand side of the paper, leaving all sorts of curious white spaceÃÂÃÂ Edith is tired of reading this headline, and promptly falls asleep. Things go out of focus, so you know what that means, yes! Dream time!
Edith serves her kid breakfast and sees her kid off to school. The kid is soon picked up by a strange man waving a doll around out of his carÃÂÃÂ Wait a minute! How could she have had a third party dream? Anyways, later on, Edith nonchalantly says, gosh, sheÃÂÃÂs half an hour late! She phones the school and discovers that the kid never arrived. (DoesnÃÂÃÂt the school phone?) and nonchalantly phones the sheriff She sort of blandly tells her that her daughter is missing, and waits for the police to arrive.
The policeman arrives, and gets out of his car curiously wearing a police motorcycle helmet and then even more curiously walks past what appears to be an empty Olympic sized swimming pool in the back yard. Yo, mom must swim a lot. I wonder if the Z-Boys ever skated there. IÃÂÃÂm sure that could have been dangerous to the toddler, but thatÃÂÃÂs not important! Edith answers the door and she is worried worried worried about her daughter not coming home! She says all this again, yes, nonchalantly, as if she lost a bridge game. The cops get right on the case!
Soon after a boy finds a body in the park! He flags down a car! ItÃÂÃÂs the cops! They get out of the car, curiously wearing those same motorcycle helmets.. They run.. curiously to the scene. The one on the left is running like a girl for some odd reason, I donÃÂÃÂt think they wanted the helmets to fall off? They confirm their worst fears, yes, itÃÂÃÂs EdithÃÂÃÂs girl! The cop goes back to EdithÃÂÃÂs house, and tells her that they found her daughter dead. Edith then throws herself onto the couch and cries. Well, at least tries to.
Very strangely acted and cast, (The Daughter, the Stranger and the Boy who finds the body are all apparently from the same family), but the big enchilada goes toEdith Massey, who looks to be the daughterÃÂÃÂs Grandmother. Yikes!
PS The Mother is not played by Edith Massey.
This is a MUST SEE on this site! One of the best.
Reviewer: Rebo Valence - favoritefavoritefavorite - April 18, 2005
Subject: The most boring tale of child abduction ever!
Presented with the framework of dream within a narrative by a police officer, this tells the story of a mother who has a nightmare that her daughter is murdered. That's really all that happens. The fact is that unlike most of these sort of films, it is an utter snoozefest. What's Mom's reaction to the death of her daughter? A flat "Oh no no no no no" before laying down softly on the sofa. At no point does she seem capable of emotion despite the terrifying ordeal she must be suffering. There are long shots of absolutely nothing happening - long shots of walking, getting into cars, Mom shuffling newspapers. There's an utterly amateurish aspect to the entire proceeding.

While Mom's flat acting is good for a laugh, overall this film doesn't have any of the cheesy edge of the infamous Coronet films.
Reviewer: Dr Quackula - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 24, 2004
Subject: A John Waters like film!
It would be interesting to know if John Waters saw this film before his film career started.There is so much in this film that would have influenced his early films! The interior shots are just like his sets, The acting by the Mother is like Edith Massey, the blown lines (editing, who need editing!), wind noise in the out door shots, and to top it off the film was sponsored by a restaurant!!! A really inept film...4 stars!!
Reviewer: samontreal - favorite - July 13, 2004
Subject: Nothin' but shlock
This film has some of the worst acting I've ever seen. The mother looks at least 55, kind of old for a supposedly 8 year old daughter, don't you think?
It was as if the actors had never seen their scripts, nor felt any strong emotions, ever! The mother is almost hilariously nonchalant about this whole ordeal, KNITTING when her child faces almost certain death! Oh really. She sits on the divan and has an "Oh well, these things happen" attitude whilst other parents would be barely conscious for knowing what probably occurred.
Lastly, that cop must've been a disguised vampire.
Reviewer: DrKnapp - favoritefavoritefavorite - January 6, 2004
Subject: Coronet wannabe...
This film wishes it could have grow up to be a Coronet film. Mother clearly studied acting under Edith Massey... and got a D. What more is there to say? I dare you NOT to laugh!
Reviewer: dynayellow - favorite - September 6, 2003
Subject: Well, their hearts were in the right place
This could be used as a film on how not to make a film. The acting and directing are amateurish (the mother is supposed to be deeply concerned about her missing daughter, but can't seem to express that emotion, and is indeed knitting while waiting for the police to return). Camerawork is nonexistant, and editing? Forget it! The mother pulls out some newspapers, arranges them, then puts them back. The police pull out of the driveway, disappear from the frame, and reenter. Long walking scenes.

That might be forgiven, if the message was clear. But this is just a scare film--your children can be picked up and killed by strangers... no tips on how to prevent this, mind you, only the advice to "not let your guard down for a minute!"

Finally, let me comment on the weirdest part of the film: the opening credits. Given the subject matter and dark tone, is flipping through a scrapbook really appropriate? I suggest that it is not.
Reviewer: PCinoGuy - favorite - December 20, 2002
Subject: The Stranger
This (The Stranger) was a good attempt at presenting the dangers to children but, the terrible amateur film-making and acting sinks this "message" film so low it's not even credible.
The Kodachrome stock itself is good tho :)
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